Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can I get dung beetles?

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Dung Beetle Innovations will have limited numbers of beetles available this summer!

It is important to register your interest as beetles are being made available based on a priority list of interested land owners.

Register your interest by contacting the Project Manager – Andrew Barber andrew@dungbeetleinnovations.com or please see our contact page.

We have four packages:

  1. Whole Farm Package – small to average farm. $6,000 + GST.
    4 species in 4 colonies of 200 – 500 beetles each (depending on species size). 4 species will provide coverage for most of the year.

  2. Whole Farm Package – average to large farm. $10,000 + GST.
    4 species in 8 colonies of 200 – 500 beetles each.

  3. Farm Starter Package. $2,000 + GST.
    1 species. 200 – 500 beetles.

  4. Small Block Package. $1,250 + GST.
    1 species. 100 – 250 beetles. (Our recommendation is to supply 250 of the smaller species to maximise establishment success).

For the small block owners we recommend that if possible organising neighbouring land owners and collectively buying one of the farm packages. Beetles do not respect property boundaries and having more beetles initially will increase the chances and speed of establishment in your catchment.

A pdf order form is available here or go to our Orders Page.

Our Terms and Conditions of Sale.

  • Is there an information pack?

Yes, please click here for a 4 page info pack.

  • How long does it take for dung beetles to become established?

Please see establishment information on our management page.

When properly established, beetles breed rapidly and environmental and economic benefits will start to be noticed after 4 – 6 years. You can expect to see beetle activity in 3 to 4 years and full carrying capacity is reached in 9 – 10 years.

Reducing the initial number of beetles released, i.e. purchasing a small block package for a farm situation, increases the time to reach carry capacity pushing it out from 9 to 13 plus years.

 

  • Has anyone done a human health risk assessment?

Yes, the Ministry of Health commissioned the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) to undertake a human health risk assessment.

Among the conclusions from the 101-page report:

“Essentially our findings agree with the public health adage that it is better to bury faeces than leave them on the surface.”

“We consider that, in areas where dung beetles become abundant, their activity will decrease the transport of pathogens from ruminant dung on pasture, to people. There may be a relative increase in the risk of transmission from contaminated groundwater sources in these areas, if the groundwater sources are already vulnerable to contamination and drinking water supplies are not treated.”

“Over time as soil depth increases with dung beetle activity, this increase may reverse. The potential increase of transport to groundwater is likely to have a lesser effect than the potential benefit of decreased transport to surface waters.”

The authors concluded: “We did not see any need to undertake further research before the release of the dung beetles.”

  • Is this not another example of NZ introducing an organism that turns into a disaster?

No. New Zealand’s economy is founded on introduced organisms (cows, sheep, grasses, clover, pine trees, etc.). In this case dung beetles did not come to NZ at the same time as the farm animals to bury their dung as they do in other countries. Australia has successfully introduced over 25 dung beetle species and continues to introduce more. There they are considered a public health benefit due to reduced flies and less water contamination. NZ has had disasters and due care must be taken. However you cannot possibly compare the introduction of possums and rabbits by the early settlers to the introduction of beneficial organisms today, which is based on sound ecological science and controlled by stringent regulations. NZ has had numerous successful introductions of beneficial organisms in the last 50 years, including biocontrol agents (predominantly insects) for weeds. An example is the ragwort flea beetle, which since its introduction in the 1980s, has successfully controlled ragwort (previously a major pasture pest nationwide for more than century) throughout most of the country. The thousands of plant species already introduced to NZ that have become weeds and the continuous stream of accidental introductions of new pests, pose a much greater threat to the NZ environment and economy than carefully introduced beneficial organisms.

See: http://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/science/plants-animals-fungi/plants/weeds/biocontrol

  • What is the role of dung beetles versus flies in vectoring disease?

There are numerous species of fly that feed and breed in dung in NZ. These may not be troublesome in terms of their impacts on livestock, but some are extremely abundant and are very capable of spreading diseases to humans. In contrast dung beetles are not attracted to humans or their food. The most common fly of potential medical importance that breeds in cow and sheep dung is the Striped Dung Fly (Oxysarcodexia varia). Given that it appears capable of vectoring diseases as diverse as tapeworms and viruses, and it is undeniably attracted to humans, then this species is likely to be capable of vectoring diseases from livestock dung to humans in NZ.

A more in-depth referenced response can be viewed here.

  • Will shallow burial of dung increase disease risk?

It has been suggested that shallow burial of dung may increase levels of some pathogens and parasites in soils because of their protection from the sanitising effects of sunlight and drying. Common sense and science shows this to be wrong. Burying dung reduces runoff into waterways. The World Health Organisation Guidelines are always to bury faeces. Burial of faeces is best practice because it reduces the possibility of animal and insect transmission of pathogens (e.g. by flies). Dung beetles go one better as unlike mechanical burial of dung, the processing of dung into brood balls by adult dung beetles, and direct feeding by dung beetles and their larvae, kills parasite eggs and larvae.

A more in-depth referenced response can be viewed here.

  • Will dung beetles increase the incidence of E. coli O157:H7 in people in NZ?

This is considered to be extremely unlikely.

Globally, infection by E. coli 0157:H7 in humans is most often associated with ingesting food or water that has been contaminated by livestock dung (e.g. runoff into lakes/rivers). Infections have also been traced to direct contact with animals. The disease occurs in other organisms, including birds and insects (for example house flies which, unlike dung beetles, are attracted to human food).

Public health experts in Australia have told us they are confident there are no health risks associated with dung beetles in Australia. Indeed, in Australia, dung beetles are generally considered to have a positive impact on public health by reducing the amount of dung in pastures and by reducing contaminated runoff into waterways. The rate of reported infections by E. coli O157:H7 are much higher in NZ than Australia.

A fuller referenced answer can be found here as well as the report Human Illness Caused by E. coli O157:H7 from Food and Non-food Sources.

  • Will dogs in NZ be at greater risk from the nematode Spirocerca lupi?

For the reasons listed below we do not consider that the introduction of the 11 proposed species of dung beetles will increase the risk of dogs contracting this parasite in NZ:

  1. NZ is only introducing beetles with a preference for large mammal herbivore dung.
  2. Spirocerca lupi is not currently present in New Zealand.
  3. S. lupi appears to be confined to tropical or sub-tropical regions.
  4. NZ does not have a feral dog or wild canid population that can provide an untreated reservoir.
  5. Anthelmintic drugs are effective both as a preventative and for treatment.
  6. Evidence from Australia indicates that dung beetles are not vectoring S. lupi.
  7. NZ already has a self-introduced species of Australian dung beetle that exploit dog dung.

The reason why we have not already got a problem is probably due to the reasons in 2, 3, 4, and 6 above? A more in-depth referenced response can be viewed here.

  • What drenches are safe to use with dung beetles?

Some parasiticide families (e.g. synthetic pyrethroids and macrocyclic lactones e.g. avermectins) are lethal to certain, if not all, life stages of dung beetles and other dung feeding fauna. However, the toxicity of the residuals in the dung diminishes (by varying degrees) over time depending on the active chemical. Therefore not all dung at any one time is lethal to dung beetles or laden with sub-lethal doses that may adversely affect populations of dung beetles. However, for best results dung beetle friendly drench families (e.g. anthelmintics, moxidectins) may be useful. See Dung Beetle Friendly Management Practices.

  • Will beetles help reduce dung odour in semi-rural areas?

Smell is likely to be reduced but not eliminated. Efficacy depends on the state of the dung beetle population, how much dung is buried, how quickly, etc.  An abundant population of one or more species is likely to remove a significant proportion of dung.

  • Will beetles utilise bird dung?

The species proposed for release in New Zealand are specific to the dung of grazing ungulate herbivores and will not utilise bird droppings. However some species of beetles in other countries do utilise bird droppings.

  • Will dung beetles eat anything else?

Adult dung beetles do not have chewing mouth parts and so are not capable of eating plant roots or any material that requires chewing. They simply suck the liquid component of faeces and filter the suspended nutrients. The larvae (grubs) of dung beetles do have chewing mouthparts but they are confined to balls or sausages of dung prepared in burrows beneath the soil surface by the adult beetles.

  • Will beetles move in and out of cropping farms between visits by grazing cattle in the summer?

Yes. Active adults will go where the dung is by flying in sweeping search patterns across wind flow until they home in on the scent of fresh dung.

  • Will beetles collect dung along with straw and bury it?

Dung beetles will bury dung. If there is undigested straw/stubble in dung then they will only utilise the finer, nutrient rich components of the dung.

  • Will dung beetles swarm at night around my house?

This is very unlikely. There are no records of this happening in Australia where 23 species of exotic dung beetle have been established in recent decades.

  • Will dung beetles become so common they in themselves become pests?

    No. Dung beetles will become as common as the amount of food available to them. Although there are huge numbers of dung beetles present in most Australian pastures they do not cause any problems.

  • Will dung beetles transmit diseases?

This is extremely unlikely. Landcare Research have conducted trials which suggests beetles are unlikely to vector animal diseases like TB (see Research Trials), and there are no known occurrences around the world where exotic dung beetles have increased the risks of animal or human diseases on or around farms. While it is possible to detect pathogenic bacteria on dung beetles, this is also true for all insects that are in contact with dung; including flies, cockroaches, earthworms, and other beetles. Flies, given their attraction to both animals and our food, are far more likely to transmit pathogens than dung beetles. The dung beetles proposed for introduction to NZ will bury fresh dung, putting it out of reach of insects such as flies. This will reduce the likelihood of pathogen transmission to human food. We expect the introduced dung beetles to have a small, but positive effect, on human health. Australian public health professionals agree with this conclusion.

  • Will dung beetles interact negatively with indigenous New Zealand invertebrates or other animals?

Very unlikely. The dung beetle species proposed for release are open-habitat specialists, so their overlap with the forest-specialist native dung beetles will be very slight (e.g. forest margins). The introduced dung beetles will only be common in open habitats where fresh dung from large mammalian herbivores is common. These are already highly altered habitats dominated by exotic grasses. Dung beetles will only occur occasionally in for example tussock grassland where wild deer graze because the density of deer in these habitats is only about 1 animal per square kilometre.

  • Will dung beetles negatively affect earthworms?

Earthworms currently play an important role in the breakdown of older drier livestock dung, in the reduction of forage contamination, in nutrient cycling, and in the productivity of New Zealand pastures. However, earthworm activity can be spatially and climatically limited. For example most earthworm species operate effectively from autumn to spring, when soils are sufficiently wet for them to move through. With two exceptions, the dung beetle species proposed for importation are active in the drier summer season, and will not compete directly with earthworms for food resources. However, Bubas bison (winter to spring) and Geotrupes spiniger (summer to winter) are likely to overlap with earthworm activity. However, rather than competing, studies in Australia have recently shown that burial of pastoral dung by these two beetle species increases both the number and biomass of earthworms, and the depth at which earthworms were active.

  • Will dung beetles improve the soil in dryland regions and cause native plants that are dependent on poor soils to be outcompeted by rank growth of introduced grasses?

Very unlikely. Stocking rates in such dryland areas are very low, so there is only a small amount of fresh dung available per hectare at any given time, meaning that dung beetle numbers will be low. Dung beetles will not use accumulated old dry dung.

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